February 16, 2009

News on Twitter

On January 23, 2008, a 20 year old man forced his way into a child day care center in Dendermonde, a small town in Belgium, Europe. He attacked the staff and the little children in the child day care center with a knife. One staff member and two babies were killed, several other staff members and babies were severly wounded. The agressor managed initially to escape, but he was arrested 90 minutes later.

Very quick the news of this horrible attack found its way to Twitter. As soon as the attack was mentioned on websites of Belgian newspapers, Twitter users picked up the story and expressed their agony in their Twitter messages. Later on the articles on Belgian news sites were also announced on Twitter, in Twitter messages that were automatically created. The news about this horrible attack became also known to news agencies, newspapers, radio and television stations and news aggregators worldwide, who also published it on their Twitter accounts.

Using Twitter Search, I traced the Twitter messages containing the words "Dendermonde" or "Termonde" - the French name for Dendermonde. From October 2008 until the moment of this writing, these words were mentioned in 1450 Twitter messages from 409 different Twitter users. The graph below shows the number of Twitter messages containing the words "Dendermonde" or "Termonde" per hour.

The peak on the graph is the hour after the stabbings were commited. Later smaller peaks occured when new facts about the agressor became public and when the funeral services for the victems were held.

As can be expected, a large part of these Twitter users can be located in Belgium. Belgium is followed by the Netherlands and France, neighbouring countries of Belgium. There were also Twitter users from countries far from Belgium announcing the horrible facts, e.g. Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Portugal and Serbia in Europe, also in the USA and Canada, in Brazil and South Africa, and also in Asia (Malaysia, Philippines).

74% of the Twitter messages containing the words "Dendermonde" or "Termonde" contained a hyperlink to a story on a newssite or a blogpost. The most productive Twitter users turned out to be Twitter users from news agencies, newspapers, radio and television stations and news aggregators. The 409 Twitter users posting messages containing the words "Dendermonde" or "Termonde" have in total over 100,000 followers. As Twitter Search is only capable of finding Twitter messages for public Twitter users, the total number of Twitter users who published messages containing the words "Dendermonde" or "Termonde" will probably exceed 409. The total number of Twitter users who were potentially informed of the horrible facts on January 23, 2009 at Dendermonde will probably exceed 100,000.

This analysis of this event shows that traditional media have discovered their way to Twitter. A large part of the messages published after the dramatic stabbings were indeed automatically published by these Twitter news accounts.

News travels also far and travels fast. Within a couple of hours Twitter users from locations far outside Belgium also twittered the horrible facts.

Currently the storm caused by the horrible facts has faded away. Life in and around Dendermonde has returned to its normal state. Unfortunatly several families will have to live with the tragical loss of life.

February 15, 2009

Short Twitter Names

There are no official figures of the number of Twitter users. Estimations go up to 8 million. As the number of Twitter users increases daily, new Twitter users find out that it is not easy to find a Twitter name that is still available. I had a close look at the shortest Twitter names, these consisting of only 1 and 2 characters.

All 1 character long Twitter names are currently taken. 6 of these 37 Twitter names (A-Z, 0-9 and underscore) are private Twitter accounts, 4 of these Twitter names are without updates.

There are 1369 Twitter names of 2 characters long - all combinations of A-Z, 0-9 and underscore. The good news is that 76 of these combinations are still free. 205 of the 2 character long Twitter accounts are private, 41 are suspended due to strange activity. 296 of the 2 character long Twitter accounts are still without updates.

The oldest 2 character long Twitter account is twitter.com/ev. It is the Twitter account of Evan Williams, one of the founders of Twitter.com. Other famous 2 character long Twitter accounts are ie - IE (yes Internet Explorer), twitter.com/om - Om Malik and twitter.com/f1 - Formula 1. Some of the 2 character long Twitter account are cleary fake accounts, e.g. twitter.com/sf - San Francisco, but without friends and updates, twitter.com/fr - Francophonie, "voulez-vous coucher avec moi ?" and twitter.com/uk - no meaningful name or bio, but 195 followers.

A lot of the 1 or 2 character long Twitter names are taken but not really used. In total there are 1406 combinations. 1289 combinations or 92% taken. Only 473 of these Twitter accounts have a location, 384 of these locations are "real" locations.

The 1289 Twitter accounts have on average 49 friends (other Twitter accounts that are followed), with twitter.com/s the Twitter account with the most friends - 11722. 572 Twitter accounts have no friends at all.

The 1289 Twitter accounts with a (very) short name are on average being followed by 186 other Twitter users, with twitter.com/ev having the most followers - 98712. 346 Twitter accounts do not have followers.

The 1289 Twitter accounts with a (very) short name have on average 405 updates. The most productive Twitter account is twitter.com/zb, with as of this writing 45469 updates. 300 Twitter accounts are still waiting for their first update.

Of the 1289 Twitter accounts with a (very) short name 136 accounts stand out as blank accounts, accounts without friends, followers or updates.

If you are looking for a (very) short Twitter Name, you are either too late of you will have to hurry to get your Twitter account registered. Or you could consider to persuade the holder of one of the inactive accounts to hand over his Twitter account.